Abortion-rights opponents have spent weeks pressuring Gov. Charlie Crist to sign legislation that would require all women seeking a first trimester abortion to submit to an ultrasound. But the newly independent Crist needs to exercise his veto and protect a woman's right to privacy.
From the start, HB 1143 has been a outsized political maneuver by one faction of a party to undermine women's constitutionally protected right to an abortion. Republicans, seeking to curry favor with social conservatives in the last days of the session, rammed through the ultrasound requirement and another provision that would make it less likely employers' insurance plans would cover abortions.
Absurdly, the measures were added to a bill authorizing Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit against national health care reform. That law requires nearly everyone to have insurance or pay a tax by 2014. So as lawmakers sought to undermine new federal requirements, they mandated treatment on women of child-bearing age.
If Crist signs the bill or allows it to become law, every woman in Florida seeking a first trimester abortion for any reason must have a costly ultrasound regardless of whether her doctor thinks it's necessary. She will be required to view the images or sign a paper declining to do so. And she will be required to hear a description of the image. Only women who show proof of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking will be allowed to avoid hearing a description — an extraordinary burden for victims who may not have reported the crime for reasons the Legislature clearly didn't consider or respect.
Republicans contend they are seeking to ensure that women have adequate information before making a major medical decision. But they acknowledge the real motive is to discourage abortions, suggesting they are more interested in appeasing a vocal minority than in respecting a woman's right to have control over her body. Such intrusion is the antithesis of what the party of limited government claims to stand for and is counter to decades of progress in women's rights.
Crist is no abortion-rights advocate. He has supported restrictions in the past, but none this extreme. He has said he is more interested in changing hearts and minds than in trampling constitutional rights. A veto is consistent with that personal philosophy. But it is also in the best interest of all Floridians for government to stay out of such personal decisions. Crist would stand on the side of women's rights and limited government by vetoing this bill.